Like many players before him, Jamelle McMillan agrees with the notion that being the son of an NBA player can be both a blessing and a burden. “Positively, you get a great behind the scenes perspective of the game,” he explained. “You’re around a lot of players who’re in the position you want to get to. Dad is probably harder on you than most dads are, but it also makes you want to prove yourself. Expectations are always gonna be sky high because of who you are, and people are always gonna want to expect you to come in and do more right away more than other new players.”
The ASU freshman already anticipates getting a phone call after every game he plays, once his father has had a chance to break down the game tape. “When I was younger, it was torture seeing him going through my game tapes, and just rewind and rewind and rewind,” McMillan recalled, “it took three, four hours to break down a game tape. But now when I look at it, I’d never be here if it wasn’t for that.”
Arizona State’s 2007 recruiting class is ranked 16th in the nation by Scout.com. Three of the five players in this class, four-star prospect McMillan included, have won one or more state championships in their prep career. McMillan was one of the top prospects in the fertile recruiting ground of Seattle, Wash. He stared for O’Dea High School, a powerhouse program in the local prep basketball scene, and values his experiences there in a major way. “You know you come from a place where the talent and coaching was good, or else you wouldn’t be able to accomplish your goals,” said McMillan who won three 3A state titles in the last four years. “I was fortunate to play for a coach, Phil Lumpkin, who played in the NBA. Playing for a coach like that who’s very demanding and very successful, gives you a sense of security to come in and compete at a high level.”
McMillan and most of the 2007 class has been in Tempe for the last four or so weeks. One significant adjustment that the point guard had to go through is being responsible for his own time management, which includes attending a 7:30 am class. These life changing experiences haven’t even come close to adversely impacting his overall college experience at ASU.
“So far I couldn’t have made a better choice,” stated McMillan. “There’s hasn’t been a single day where I have maybe questioned it a little bit. The heat got me here the first week, but I was always able to tolerate it. People here are very nice…great staff, trainers, players, professors…I’m really looking forward to the fall semester.”
With structured practices several weeks away, the freshman partakes in pick-up games with the rest of his teammates. These sessions certainly have a purpose, as McMillan and his comrades learn a lot about themselves and playing with each other. “We’re definitely challenged and tested by older guys, and that’s something you have to deal with,” he commented. “The first week, lifting weights and going right into playing, was hard. We call our own fouls, we’re very competitive in the games and you have to have that competitive spirit in order to win.” He added that it’s not uncommon for older players who no longer play in college to join these pick-up sessions. This potentially includes ASU’s newest student, the Phoenix Suns’ Amare Stoudemire, who has been planning to participate in these games, but hasn’t done so to date.
McMillan, who was the Sun Devils’ second commitment of the 2007 class, was also considering North Carolina State, Clemson and Georgia Tech before he settled on the maroon and gold. The O’Dea standout has gained a reputation as a lockdown defender, and one who distributes the ball before looking for his own shot. In a previous interview, he admitted that his style of play has definitely been modeled after his father.
On the other hand, McMillan feels that his outside shooting capabilities have received some harsh and unfair criticism. “I didn’t agree with that criticism because my three-point shot was the only shot that was consistent for me,” he explained. “I struggled badly with my jump shot, but no one really talked about that, and that’s where it’s dad vs. the naked eye talking about it. I never stressed that part of the game before, and I’m really now working on my mid-range game.”
“I’m working on getting the form right, footwork…I’m left-handed, but I shoot right handed so my footwork is horrible. I’m taking so many reps, because I know how important the mid-range game is. I give a lot of credit to Coach Lumpkin on this, because he helped me improve it. I use it a lot in the pick-up games and I feel pretty good about it. When I start playing in the season we’ll see how it all comes together.”
Not only will his jump shot come under the magnifying glass, but also his overall game and that of his fellow newcomers. There’s a great sense of anticipation surrounding the ASU freshmen, and McMillan noted where he sees this group contributing this upcoming season.
“With the team coming off the year that they had, you have to give them a lot of credit, even though their record didn’t show it. They lost a lot of games by two possessions, and basically we’re here to get back those two possessions,” explained McMillan. “Pac-10 championship – that’s obviously a goal. If it’s realistic or not, who knows? But we just want to come in here, see how we do, get some W’s and get fans interested in us and believing in us.”
Some skeptics will call these first-year players overrated, and determine that living up to the expectations put on them is impossible. McMillan isn’t a boisterous person, but on the other hand the resolve he exhibits is one that can quickly turn a doubter into a believer.
“We have our confidence, we believe in each other, we’ve played very well with each other the last couple of weeks, and we enjoy hanging out with each other away from basketball which is very important for the chemistry,” said McMillan. “We have a coaching staff and teammates that believe in us, and we’re setting our goals obviously higher than expected. We obviously want to be in the (NCAA) tournament, and if that’s possible, then great. I know we’re gonna work as hard as we can to get this thing turned around, get these people excited and give back to the university who’s given us the opportunity to be student-athletes.”
High School/Junior College
O’Dea High School, Seattle (Wash.)
Date of birth
”Mac Nickel, Mac, Mill.”
Favorite TV show
”Bronx is Burning.”
”It’s probably bad for an athlete, but Mountain Dew (smile).”
Favorite pro team
”San Antonio Spurs.”
Person you most admire
”My dad. Just because where he came from, his struggles in life…he managed to keep his head on straight and end up being successful through a lot of hard work.”
First basketball memory
”Second grade at a Boys and Girls club scoring 64 points. That was the fist step to get me where I am today.”
One thing most people don’t know about me
”I’m very quiet off the court, even though my position on the court demands me to be very loud.”
Why did you choose ASU?
”Coach Sendek and his coaching staff.”
Where do you want to be in ten years?
“With a good job being able to support my family. I don’t know if my career will be basketball related, maybe law, I’m also looking into real estate because my dad is doing a little of that. What ever I do I want to repay my parents for everything they gave to me.”
Thanks to Jack Leary and Jacob Krug who assisted with questions for this article.